On Tuesday night, Texas Senator Ted Cruz went head-to-head with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on the issue of healthcare. Cruz gave Sanders two very important lessons on the issue: one about why healthcare isn’t really a “right,” and one about the importance of cost in economics.
When Sanders asked Cruz point-blank whether “every American [is] entitled to healthcare as a right,” Cruz took him back to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Let’s talk about what rights are. … You have a right for government not to mess with you, for government not to do things with you. If you look at the Bill of Rights: free speech means the government can’t silence you when you’re speaking; religious liberty means the government’ can’t control who you worship, what your faith is; the Second Amendment means the government can’t take away your guns.
“Those are rights, you know what the Declaration of Independence said, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,'” Cruz concluded.
With this definition of rights settled, Cruz attempted to extend this notion of rights to healthcare. “So what is a right is access to healthcare,” the Texas senator said. “What is a right is choosing your own doctor, and if you believe healthcare is a right, why on earth did you help write Obamacare, that cost six million people to have their insurance cancelled and had them lose their doctors, and had people like LaRonda who can’t get health insurance, can’t afford premiums, you’re denying her what you say is her right.”
This access to healthcare, at the cost which the market provides, is a negative right — something the government does not give but is required not to take away.
Sanders shifted the ground, and set himself up for a fall. Responding to Cruz’s argument that Americans have a right to access, the Vermont senator declared, “Access doesn’t mean a damn thing. What it means is whether people can afford it, can get the healthcare that they need.”
This is why Sanders supports “Medicare for all,” or a single-payer socialized medicine plan. But this plan falls apart due to basic economics, as Cruz pointed out.
“Bernie has talked about providing healthcare for free from the government,” Cruz said. “You know what? The simplest principle in economics it TANSTAAFL, ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’ The liberal-leaning Urban Institute scored Bernie’s health plan, concluded it would cost $2.5 trillion in the first year, $32 trillion over ten years.”
The Texas senator tried to put that cost in perspective. “All of the federal income taxes we pay today are about $1.5 trillion a year,” he argued. “$2.5 trillion means every one of us paying income taxes would have to triple what you pay in income taxes, to get an additional $2.5 trillion.”
Cruz anticipated Sanders’ upcoming retort. “Now, Bernie no doubt is going to come back and say, ‘No, no no! None of you are going to pay, just the rich,'” the Texan predicted. But that wouldn’t solve the economic problem.
“Well, how abut if we took every person that makes over a million dollars a year, and confiscated 100 percent of their income, take every penny that they make?” Cruz asked. “That would only raise enough money to fund Bernie’s plan for five months.”
“Here’s another idea: how about if the government confiscated the assets of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Exxon-Mobil? If it came in, illegally seized these companies and sold them, that would pay for 1 year of Bernie’s plan,” the Texan declared.
Cruz laid out the implications of Sanders’ plan, and asked if the American people would still like it.”If you don’t want to see your taxes triple, in addition to the wait lists, in addition to the rationing, in addition to fewer MRIs and mammograms, to worse care — they you don’t want to see Bernie’s Medicaid-for-all,” the Texas senator quipped, purposefully switching Sanders’ idea from “Medicare-for-all” to “Medicaid-for-all.”
Along these lines, Cruz had attacked Obamacare’s paperwork impact, saying the healthcare law’s rules alone — which run to 20,000 pages — “generate $51 billion in cost and more than 172 million hours of paperwork compliance.” The senator argued, “if you want your doctor to get back to caring for you, if you want to drive down costs, get government out of the business of dictating and controlling healthcare.”
Then Cruz suggested what the American people do want: “You want to see cheap affordable healthcare that you can choose that puts you in control.”
To this, Sanders shot back attacking the tax plan Cruz had laid out during his presidential campaign — a clear non-sequitur that did not address these economic concerns.
Cruz delivered the killing blow in his final statement. “You know, I’m reminded of a Saturday Night Life skit with Christopher Walken, where they’re playing in a band and he keeps ringing the cowbell,” the Texan declared. “And every time they record it, his solution is ‘More cowbell! More cowbell!’ It was government control that messed this all up. And Bernie and the Democrats’ solution is ‘More cowbell! More cowbell!'”
Yes, Obamacare didn’t work, “but give government even more power,” Cruz summarized. Unfortunately for Sanders, this hit the mark, summing up all of the Texan’s criticisms of the Vermont senator’s plans.
Will Bernie Sanders learn from these lessons on economics and liberty? I wouldn’t hold my breath.
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